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West Indies cricketers sanctioned for breaching NZ isolation rules

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CHRISTCHURCH: The West Indies cricket squad has been stripped of the right to train while in managed isolation after players were found to have breached rules around their 14-day quarantine.

New Zealand’s Ministry of Health said CCTV footage from the team’s Christchurch hotel showed players mingling in hallways and sharing food in violation of managed isolation regulations. The ministry said all incidents occurred within the hotel and there was no danger to the public.

“The West Indies squad, which has completed 12 of their scheduled 14 days of isolation under Covid-19 regulations, will not be able to train again until their full managed isolation period has been completed. The isolation period might be extended if any further concerns arise,” the ministry said.

West Indies Cricket chief executive Johnny Grave told New Zealand media it is hugely disappointing that players that knew the protocol completely broke that.

“Here, because of the fact that the New Zealand Government have done such a good job with Covid-19, the carrot was for players to go through a normal tour,” he said. “I’m disappointed that they would let themselves down and the team down and potentially put the tour at risk and the New Zealand public at risk.”

Grave said an investigation has been launched and all players will be interviewed.

Grave said he sympathised with players, coping with a difficult environment while in quarantine. But the squad had been warned of serious ramifications if quarantine facilities were breached.

“We certainly made it very clear that if any player breached a quarantine facility … that would be probably taken outside of our hands … that would have resulted in a player being sent home immediately,” he said.

There is no suggestion any player left the quarantine facility, only that some may have socialized inside the facility which rules do not allow.

Players were tested on Wednesday for the third time since their arrival in New Zealand. If the tests are negative, the team is set to leave isolation on Friday and travel to Queenstown for two warm-up matches against New Zealand ‘A’.

The West Indies squad required a government exemption to enter New Zealand for their upcoming series of three Twenty20 Internationals, starting on Nov 27, and two Tests beginning on Dec 3. New Zealand’s borders are currently generally only open to returning residents and citizens.

“As with other sports teams that have come to New Zealand, the West Indies cricket team were given certain exemptions from the managed isolation rules which apply to everyone else,” Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield said. “This included being able to be in larger bubbles and train in preparation for their international games.

“Members of the team were confirmed to have repeatedly broken managed isolation rules and many of these incidents have been captured on CCTV and have also been reported by staff. The incidents include groups mingling and sharing food.

“It is a privilege to come here but in return they have to stick to the rules. Keeping Covid-19 out of our communities and keeping our staff safe depends on it. They didn’t do that, despite agreeing to abide by the parameters of the exemption.”

New Zealand Cricket (NZC) said it supported the ministry’s actions.

“NZ Cricket will continue working with the West Indies team and management and relevant government agencies to ensure there is no repeat of these violations,” a spokesperson said.

West Indies players had to isolate in their own rooms for three days on arrival in New Zealand and had no contact with anyone. For the next four days, players and staff were divided into groups of no more than 15 to access training facilities and gym and socialise. For the second week, the touring party was split into bubbles of 20 with no interaction allowed with other groups.

“We have been told that the incidents in question included some players compromising the bubble integrity by mixing between two separate West Indies bubbles into which the touring party had been split, by sharing food and socialising in hallways,” Cricket West Indies said in a statement. “There is no suggestion that any members of the touring party left the facility, or that any unauthorised persons accessed it.”

The West Indies squad is the first to undergo two international tours during the Covid-19 pandemic. They were involved in the first tour following a global sports’ lockdown when they quarantined in Britain ahead of a series against England played in a so-called bio-secure bubble in June and July.

Most of the players returned to the Caribbean for a domestic Twenty20 league before the national squad regrouped to travel to New Zealand.

Following the West Indies, New Zealand will be hosting Pakistan for two Tests and three Twenty20 Internationals, while second-string Pakistan Shaheens will also be the touring for a series of matches against Pakistan ‘A’.

Published in Dawn, November 12th, 2020

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